After three months of immunisation activities in the city, the 12th and final round of Sehat ka Insaf was held in the provincial capital on Sunday. Around 0.7 million children in 97 union councils (UC) were vaccinated against nine diseases.
Briefing journalists at the Officers Mess, Minister for Health Shahram Khan Tarakai said Peshawar acts as a major transit hub and hundreds of thousands of people move in and out of the city every day, creating a conducive environment for the spread of poliovirus across the country.
He said the World Health Organization (WHO) has termed Peshawar the largest reservoir of poliovirus in the world.
Samples of sewage water collected from various locations in Peshawar over the last four years have persistently revealed the presence of the virus, he said. The prevailing security situation has seriously affected the quality of health campaigns in the city and was resulting in incomplete coverage at the UC level.
In order to stem the spread of the virus, Tarakai said a recurring high-quality vaccination campaign, accompanied by strong monitoring and awareness activities, was started on February 2 in the city.
Sehat ka Insaf included routine immunisations against nine vaccine-preventable childhood diseases such as measles, pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis-B, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis.
The minister said Sehat ka Insaf aimed to create awareness among people on how to prevent their children from contracting preventable diseases.
He said the campaign’s target was 754,000 children under the age of five in Peshawar district. They have achieved the target and inoculated around 0.7 million children in 97 UCs, Tarakai shared.
He said 4,500 teams of health department employees and teachers were involved in delivering door-to-door vaccines to 350,000 households in the district. A total of 5,777 security personnel were deployed to provide security to the teams every week.
It was revealed that Unicef and WHO committed Rs124 million to the provincial government for the entire duration of the campaign.
About the next step in polio vaccinations, the minister said Peshawar now has a better chance to fight the virus and they are waiting for the latest water samples to detect its presence. He added regular polio campaigns will continue on a priority basis nevertheless.
He said 0.1 million children in Bara, Khyber Agency have been not vaccinated for the last three years owing to security risks and the virus is likely to creep into the city from there. He demanded the federal government and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor to ensure polio campaigns on an emergency basis in the area.
Appreciating the role of WHO, Unicef, health and education departments, police officials and the media, the minister said the campaign could not have been possible without their wholehearted cooperation.
WHO Country Director Elias Durry was also present on the occasion and appreciated the role of the provincial government, saying with immense efforts of the government, the country will be polio free very soon.
He said for the last three years, the children in North and South Waziristan have not been vaccinated and the virus can spread to other parts of the country from there. He said they are presently planning to reach the areas and inoculate the children.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2014.
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